Lawmakers in Austin have filed more than 100 bills relating to gas and electric utility customers this session — and some of these bills already have made it to the governor. Others, however, remain pending and more than a few have died outright. The 85th Texas Legislature adjourns sine die in just a few weeks. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the bills we’ve been following, whether live, dead or in between.
- Senate Bill 735 would require the Public Utility Commission to establish a schedule under which it periodically reviews the fairness of electric utility rates. It also includes other changes to rate-setting procedures that, taken collectively, would be something of a mixed bag for consumers. Senate Bill 735 has been passed by both the House and Senate and sent to the governor.
- Senate Bill 83, by state Sen. Bob Hall, calls for the creation of a task force to review potential risks to the state’s electric grid infrastructure from cyber and electro-magnetic attacks. The legislation has been approved by the full Senate and referred to the House Committee on State Affairs. House Bill 787, which is similar to SB 83, has been adopted by the Texas House and referred to the Senate Business and Commerce committee.
- Senate Bill 1976 would ensure the continuation of a process whereby the Public Utility Commission identifies low-income electric and telecommunications ratepayers. This is important because such customers are eligible for various customer protections. This bill has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the governor. The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power supports this bill.
- Several bills, including House Bill 237 by Rep. Rafael Anchia and House Bill 642 by Rep. Larry Phillips, had called for a name change for the Texas Railroad Commission. This would have helped to clear up public confusion about the agency, which does not have responsibility for overseeing railroads but does oversee gas utility rates. These bills failed to get traction during the session and are now considered dead.
- House Bill 1818, by state Rep. Larry Gonzales, is the Railroad Commission “Sunset” bill. That is, the bill authorizes the continuation of the agency for several more years, and also spells out various adjustments to the agency’s operations. However, House Bill 1818 does not include several recommended reforms — such as the use of independent administrative law judges for the adjudication of gas utility cases — that were included in versions of this bill during previous legislative sessions. HB 1818 was adopted by both the Texas House and Texas Senate and sent to the governor.
- House Bill 1427, by Rep. Pat Fallon, would have clarified the proposition that a city’s zoning authority extends over electric cooperatives just as it would for any other business operating within city limits. HB 1427 would be unnecessary except for a recent legal challenge mounted by two electric cooperatives to a zoning decision in North Texas. HB 1427 was adopted by the House Urban Affairs Committee, but then stalled. This bill is now dead.
Is a policy analyst for TCAP, a coalition of cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.